Saturday, December 8, 2007


Thirty years ago, during the years my organized-religion-averse mother was volunteering at Starcross, a small lay community in the monastic tradition in Sonoma County in California, she sent me a book for Christmas. The book was titled NOTES FROM THE SONG OF LIFE: SPIRITUAL REFLECTIONS and was written by Tolbert McCarroll, a monk living at Starcross. The book contained a month's worth of writings, to be read as daily meditations. Although having a clear aversion to anything remotely related to "God," I read the book even though I felt somewhat annoyed with my mother for sending it to me. I found a few things about it I liked (grudgingly), and put it away on my bookshelf, somewhat embarrassed to have it in my possession. What stuck with me, though, were the words from the chapter called "God".

"If you are fortunate, you will run across some truly spiritual people. If you believe that they have no desire to determine your path or control your behavior you will feel free to listen to their experiences."

About twenty years ago, I did run across a diverse group of people who shared their experiences with me without any expectation that I would choose their way of life. At that point, I looked for and found the book my mother had given to me. It became a daily guide for me during what would be many difficult years. I didn't become a member of any religion but I did find a way of living where I gradually became more at peace with myself and with other people.

Last year, when Tolbert McCarroll published a book called A WINTER WALK, I ordered a copy. A WINTER WALK has 32 short chapters, one of which can be read each day of December and on New Year's Day. Tolbert McCarroll was the founder of the Humanist Institute in the 1960s, drawing from both Eastern and Western spiritual traditions and seeking links between contemporary psychology and religious experience. Among his influences are the ancient Taoist masters, the 14th Century Western Mystics, Chinese Zen masters and, in a A WINTER WALK, Chanukah stories by Isaac Bashevis Singer. I greatly appreciate his non-dogmatic approach to spiritual storytelling.

Today's chapter in A WINTER WALK is called "Bodhi Day." It seems that December 8th is the day that many Buddhists celebrate the Buddha's enlightenment and decorate dwarf fig trees --Bodhi trees. Siddhartha confronted his inner demons for eight days and at the end of the eighth day he found enlightenment and became the Buddha, the Enlightened One.

It was last year on this day that I decided to create a blog in which I could show, one day at a time, a 40-year retrospective of my art work. December 8th has been a difficult anniversary for me since 1970 when my beloved boyfriend returned from Vietnam -- the day that, sadly, marked the beginning of the end of the relationship in which we had placed so much hope.

Last year, on December 8, an understanding person suggested that I do something different to mark the anniversary so that in 2007 when the day came again, I would have a new way of seeing that day.

I did and I do.

My first blog post, a drawing I did in high school and which looks somewhat like my surfer and artist boyfriend who went to Vietnam in 1970, was titled "IMAGINARY BROTHER AS WITNESS 1966":

Today I went on an early morning walk with a old friend. We walked on the trail next to Bellingham Bay where we saw the lovely flowering tree which heads this post.

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